These notes outline the origin of the names of some of the streets of South Melbourne.  They have been developed from notes first compiled by FG Miles, South Melbourne Town Clerk, in 1909, and published in instalments in The Record on 18 January, 25 January, 1 February, and 8 February, 1936.  A revised version appeared in House names of South Melbourne by Talbot Hill (1929-2005) in 1988.

George Rippey Stewart (1895-1980), the American toponymist, gives ten categories of place names – descriptive, associative, incident, possessive, commemorative, commendory, folk etymology, manufactured, mistake and shift names. When Australia was colonized by the British, Cole states that the native population was not urbanized, nor did the aboriginal population have a written list of place names.  Further, Britain had been long settled, and so there was not a recent history of place naming.  She considers that, although there was an opportunity for creativity and originality in place naming, those responsible were reduced to ‘dullness, parochialism, and monotony’ because of the large number of common names chosen, usually in a spirit of flattery, not for connection with place. 

The same comments could also apply to street names in South Melbourne, although in general they are a fair history of men and events of the past.

Settlement on Emerald Hill followed the sale of land laid out in two surveys.  The first survey was conducted in 1852. That survey was based on a grid bounded by Eastern Road, Park Street, Montague Street and Sandridge (City Road).  In 1854 the grid was extended to include the Three Chain Road (Albert Road) and Nelson Road. During this time Robert Hoddle, and then Andrew Clarke headed the Survey office. They, or their assistants, either nominated street names or left it to the Governors, La Trobe and Hotham.  The original choices mostly honoured aristocratic men or families with a leading role in British civil or military life, whereas the 1854 survey reflected British naval and military power.

After that time the names were determined by the Emerald Hill and South Melbourne Councils.  Most of the names reflect local mayors, councillors, council employees and citizens, with two exceptions – a group of streets named for the children of Victoria and Albert, and a group named for men involved with the sinking of the ‘SS London’ in the Bay of Biscay in 1866.  Development of the area was mostly complete by about 1914, but since that time some streets have disappeared because of the construction of housing developments and freeways, and other streets have been renamed by government to reflect their locality.  The streets listed in this document were part of the municipality for most of its period of existence.

References: GR Stewart, Names of the Globe, New York, 1975; Lynnette Cole; Victorian Historical Journal Vol. 62 (3-4) p/pp 137-8 1991 Issue: 238

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